The Multi-Appendage Robotic System (MARS) from Virginia Tech's Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory looks like a giant spider with six legs instead of eight. Fabricated out of carbon fiber and aluminum, the robot's legs are spaced axi-symmetrically around its body, which lets it walk omni-directionally. Each leg uses a proximal joint with two degrees of freedom and a distal joint with one degree of freedom for added strength and rigidity. The goal is to develop a walking gait system for negotiating terrain with variations in height. The system is based on simplified biological neuron networks, arranged in subnetworks and subsystems to support the operation of another neural network: a central pattern generator (CPG) that generates gait patterns based on feedback from all supporting systems. (Source: Virginia Polytechnic and State University)
Good science fiction was never about the technology or the imagination of the author. It was about the effect that technology had on people. It was people stories in a scientifically extrapolated setting.
For example: Forbidden Planet was about our hidden emotions and what could happen if they were given the power to express themselves.
The Caves of Steel (Isaac Asimov) was about the consequences of automation on people. It was examined in the context of a mystery story.
Planet of the Apes examined our self destructiveness by looking at a potential aftermath (the human race cripples itself leaving room for Apes to advance).
The problem with science fiction today is that it has moved into the realm of fantasy. It is no longer about potential futures and how we fit into them, or the consequences of our choices. It is about adventure in an imaginary landscape.
Two researchers from Cornell University have won a $100,000 grant from NASA to continue work to develop an energy-harvesting robotic eel the space agency aims to use to explore oceans on one of the moons of Jupiter.
Is the factory smarter than it used to be? From recent buzzwords, you’d think we’ve entered a new dimension in industrial plants, where robots run all physical functions wirelessly and humans do little more than program ever more capable robotics. Some of that is actually true, but it’s been true for a while.
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